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Sex now selling in Bollywood

From CNN Correspondent Suhasini Haidar

"Khwaish" is seen as heralding a new age in Indian cinema.

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Indians flock to movies that are showing more skin and more kissing.
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- 124 of 132 films released last year made losses.

- Six million people are employed by India's film industry -- the world's largest.

- Typical theater occupancy is 30-40 percent, and a full house is rare.

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- "House full" signs are lit up and long queues of moviegoers are waiting their turn to see the latest Bollywood film, "Khwaish," or "Desire."

Advertisements for "Desire" promise it will be racy, with 17 kisses and a string of bikini-clad girls, heralding a new age in mainstream Indian cinema.

The show is sold out, and one theater owner says he is thrilled, given that these days theaters get only 30-40 percent occupancy.

"Nowadays having full house is a rarity. So, one is obviously very happy," Regal cinema theatre owner Siddheshwar Dayal says.

Traditionally in Bollywood -- the world's largest film industry with 6 million workers -- films steer clear of sex.

The hero usually romances the heroine by singing and dancing. They hug but shy away from anything more. Even a kiss is a no-no in this conservative society.

But a string of films released this year suggest skin may finally be hot -- and not the least because it sells.

The Indian film industry is battling a recession. In 2002 more than 90 percent of all films released failed, resulting in more than $80 million in losses.

Almost the only films that made profits were ones with a sexy edge, like "The Body," which raked in more than $2 million.

People in the industry say it is a trend for a low-budget film to have a little bit of sex thrown in, and that's enough to draw an audience.

But actress Mallika Sherawat says her steamy scenes aren't about cheap thrills.

"Are you trying to tell me that girls these days don't kiss?" Sherawat asks. "What's this hullabaloo being made of me kissing the hero, or the hero kissing me? What's the big deal?"

No one in Bollywood is throwing away the kisses. Producers are hoping the new trend may mean they can finally kiss their losses goodbye.

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